Thursday, September 11, 2008

welcome to the mid-west - culture shock!

We moved to Iowa in January of 2007. My husband was born in So CA and moved to Sacramento Valley when he was around 8 or 9, I think. I was born in MN, moved to the Bay Area when I was 4, then to the Sacramento Valley when I was 13.

We'd known for a couple years that we wanted OUT of California. It was way too expensive for our growing family and we knew that we'd never be able to afford to buy a home as long as we stayed there. Our credit was taking a swim in the toilet as it was, and it wasn't coming up for air any time soon. So, we began looking for an opportunity to leave, and prayed. A lot.

J was doing work with people in the Nashville area and there was talk of hiring full-time and relocating us to Tennessee. It gradually fell apart, the job disappeared and our home nearly did with it. All this in the weeks following Princess's birth. Praise God for kind-hearted and flexible mid-wives who were more concerned with helping me have the birth I wanted than with getting paid in a timely fashion.

J took a job (on contract) with the much avoided and dreaded Intel. We felt it was kind of inevitable for such a talented web developer/programmer who happened to live down the street from one of their largest offices. Sure, they pay well.. but they expect to OWN you. Not something we were interested in. It was a blessedly brief stint, and he managed to find other work to take him away from the dreaded blue jungle.

We continued to pray and scour the opportunities that came through Monster and that other site that I can't remember the name of.. Interview after interview in and out of California, opportunities faded away and doors were shut. My parents put their house on the market, planning on moving back to my father's home town in SE Iowa. And then J received an email from a company in Iowa. A well known publishing company that was looking for someone just his type. It seemed a long shot to us.. Iowa? I'm 'mid-western by birth' as are my parents (my father having lived in Iowa until joining the Navy at 18).. so it didn't seem too far fetched to me.. but Iowa? Still, I'd never felt like a 'Californian' and looked forward to going somewhere, anywhere, that might feel more like 'home'.

Everyone, on both ends, said the same thing when we'd announce our destination. "Iowa? Wow. That will be a culture shock!" For me, all I could imagine was a rather welcome culture shock of friendly people and actually knowing the people who live next door, perhaps a slower pace of life.. in which we might have time to stop and catch our breath now and then. Sure, I realized that 'our type' might not be the most prevalent in such a region, but I wasn't too worried about it.

After some negotiating on the contract details.. and much more prayer.. J took the job. Just over a month later, we packed up and headed east with our four children and 2 cats.. in the middle of January.

We had to take the long route, heading south (which gave us a chance to visit some of J's family in So CA before leaving the state) and then turning east through New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, and then north through Kansas and Missouri into Iowa. It was a long trip, with lots of snow and ice to see along the way. The cats did surprisingly well (despite my fear that my senior feline might die from the stress).

And we arrived, on Friday the 19. The first 'good snow' of the season had just come the week before and the landscape was a dazzling wintry white. The ice storm that had knocked out power for days in MO and KS had left sparkling icicles dangling from tree branches and a good 5" of fresh snow blanketed the ground. It was quite a sight for our Californian eyes. We couldn't wait to buy some gear and dig into it!

So after checking out our house (that's another post in itself.. ugh), we headed to WalMart (bleh) to purchase our winter gear. Um..not so easy to find supplies for winter in January. Really, you need to buy such things in like October and November. By January, pickin's is slim. We started loading up a cart.. I think we may have had two.. and as we finished collecting hats, gloves, shovels, and boots, J remembered that he would need to buy something to wear to work on Monday as our belongings (moving van) would not be here by then. He selected some pants and a shirt and headed to the fitting room.

There I was at about 10:30pm with my four children and two shopping carts, waiting for my husband to try on some clothes. Princess was getting fussy and wanted to nurse. I unbuckled her from the cart and sat down on the bench in front of the fitting room counter, inviting my boys to take a seat beside me, and proceeded to 'whip it out' and comfort my tired cranky daughter. As she settled into my lap and quieted down, and older lady employee came up to me..

"You need to go in a fitting room if you're going to do that."
"I'm fine here, thank you," I replied.
"No. Some people could be offended."
"She's fine where she is," interjected the woman attending the counter.

That lady was lucky her fellow employee came to my rescue.. Still, I so wish that we had not been so busily consumed by our arrival that I may have had a chance to contact the manager of the store and speak with them about the incident. I was not being disruptive, most people didn't even know what I was doing.. she just happened to glance my way as I was hiking up one of my shirts (after all, I had a nursing tank under my t-shirt for both warmth and added discretion).

In all my years of motherhood in CA, I had never had anything but pats on the back when nursing in public. At most I may get the comment "If you're more comfortable, we have a room over there that you're welcome to nurse in.. but you're fine here too if you'd rather not move." I lived a sheltered life when it came to public nursing.. Giving me confidence and allowing me to take for granted my freedom.

Sure, there were differences we noticed upon relocating from California to Iowa. But there are people of all types, all walks of life, in both places. They're still just people. Yes, there is less paranoia here when it comes to daily living, less suspicion toward your average fellow man. And if you're walking down the street in Iowa, and say 'Hello' to someone who crosses your path, they might actually say something back.. with a smile. (Rather than look at you like you have worms crawling out of your nose.)

The homeschool group that the kids played soccer with didn't even care that our kids came wearing Punisher t-shirts or that they had weird colored hair, or that my 5yo had a mohawk. They don't care what we have pierced, or how many tattoos we have, or how we dress ("I love your free spirit!").. but heaven forbid I dare to bare my breast to feed my child in *gasp* public.

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The Mister said...

My wife went through this with one of the few non-sweet people at our church. She wrote about it here and here if you care to read about it. It made me want to leave the church my family has been at for three generations.

Pamela said...

Yeah. I'm his wife(pointing up). And it still makes my blood boil. The snarky me can't wait until the hateful wife in my story realizes I'm incubating #4, and she's in for at least 52 more weeks of my boobies.

I swear we didn't do the knock up just to make her mad. But sometimes the thought of it does make me chuckle. An evil little chuckle.

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